ELK GARDEN, VA – At Goshen Homestead, a 150-acre family farm in southwest Virginia, Dwayne and Stacey McIntyre manage their farm according to what they call “Biblically Principled Sustainability.”

Leviticus 26:3-5 says, in part, “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands … you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.”

Using that decree as a starting point, the McIntyres have developed a practice of farming which reflects both the wisdom they have gained through almost two decades of work as first-generation farmers and the guidance they’ve found in the text of the Bible through regular study.

Specifically, the McIntyres believe that God has included in the Bible specific instructions on how to grow and consume food – what Dwayne has called a “moral food lifestyle.”

In practice this means a management approach which eschews manufactured chemical inputs. Though similar, this is not necessarily the same as organic production. The key instead is a husbandry of animals and the land which produces bounteously healthy food for humans.

The result is a farm with a grade A micro-dairy at its center. The farm also raises beef, poultry and other livestock which are sold through the same retail and subscription channels as its dairy products. The farm not only sustains the McIntyres and their eight children ages 3 to 18 but also nourishes scores of families in their region and beyond.

The McIntyres got into farming when, after having their first child, they wanted to homestead and grow their own food. They were living near Lancaster, PA, and word somehow reached Dr. Dave Roffey, a veterinarian who was running a Devon beef cattle operation on the land which today is Goshen Homestead.

Roffey needed a farm manager, and after an initial phone call Roffey drove to Pennsylvania to speak to the McIntyres.

“He would not take no for an answer,” Dwayne recalled. “The second half of the interview had to be on the farm, though, so we took a long weekend and drove down to see him.

“Thirty days later we had packed up our lives in Pennsylvania and moved to Virginia.”

The McIntyres stayed with Roffey for a dozen years, developing a pastured poultry and herdshare program in 2015. In 2019, the McIntyres bought the farm from Roffey. Together with that purchase, they also built their micro-dairy with single-stall parlor.

That investment proved fortuitous about six months after their purchase of the farm, as with the onset of COVID in early 2020, the McIntyres weren’t able to get an appointment at a slaughterhouse for a year.

“I think the secret to our success is diversification,” Dwayne said. “By having a bunch of legs to your stool, if one is not working the others will support you. Chicken and milk got us through 2020.”

The micro-dairy milks up to 25 Jerseys. Fluid milk is sold both through a herd share and as low-temperature pasteurized milk in retail stores. The dairy also produces yogurt, buttermilk and chocolate milk (made with cocoa and honey). There are 127 herd share members, some from a couple hours away. The farm employs a driver to take the dairy’s products to stores and a number of drop-off points within an hour or so from the farm.

“It’s a different approach to being a profitable dairy,” Dwayne admitted.

At Goshen Homestead, God’s light shines

Dwayne McIntyre with a fresh batch of milk at Goshen Homestead’s micro-dairy. Photo by Karl H. Kazaks

The farm currently processes 300 chickens nine months a year, an increase from their initial start of just 25 birds a month. The chickens and a good portion of the milk are pre-sold through a subscription service. That list of buyers is given the opportunity to purchase other farm products, such as turkeys and beef, helping to boost revenue.

“Our lesson from the herd share and chickens is that a subscription service is such a brilliant idea – you know in advance what your revenues will be and what needs to be produced,” Dwayne said.

The beef cattle on the farm are still Devon. “They get good and stocky on the grass we grow in the poor, rocky soil we have here,” Dwayne said.

The McIntyres pay their children for their farm work, and have even developed a profit-sharing model to include their children in the farm’s financial success. In this way, they hope to keep their kids motivated and engaged in the farm’s health.

In fact, the turkey operation at the farm is a business run entirely by one of their daughters, 16-year-old Sarah. Her 14-year-old sister Anna used her earnings from the farm to develop a sheep operation, using the Icelandic breed, beginning when she was 11. The sheep will be used for meat, milk and wool. Eleven-year-old Rachel is developing a Nigerian dwarf goat operation.

The micro-dairy is a 2x milking operation. The ration is different than you’d find at other, more conventional farms. In addition to grazing forages, the herd is supplemented with alfalfa, molasses and hay.

“People love the taste of our milk,” Dwayne said.

At some point the dairy will likely increase in size – Dwayne would like to start making ice cream – but he’s not trying to bulk up. “We’re growing organically,” he said. “If we sell out of one thing, the next year we’ll increase production.”

When it comes to retail milk sales, the farm suggests its retail partners to sell at a certain price. The goal is to price the product at a level which will encourage sales. They provide a kind of insurance to the retailers too, saying that if they sell at the suggested price, the farm will replace any unsold product the following week. (That guarantee is not provided for milk sold at a price higher than the suggested level.)

In 2023, 98.7% of product sold within a week at retail.

“Our story is a testimony,” said Dwayne, “that you can produce the highest quality food by practicing Godly agriculture.”

by Karl H. Kazaks